Call it the height of naiveté or another in an endless series of attempts by The New York Times — and its ideological sister, The Washington Post — to cripple Donald Trump’s presidency.
Whatever you call it, The New York Times now shudders with the fear in print that President Trump has damaged America’s relationship with Israel. The paper now breathlessly reports that it has learned that Israel is the ally that Mr. Trump betrayed when he entertained in the Oval Office Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.
The Post broke the story but didn’t know — or didn’t report — the Israel angle.
Now The New York Times reveals it was actually Israel, which is “one of the United States’ most important allies and a major intelligence collector in the Middle East. The revelation that Mr. Trump boasted about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries.”
And why does this suggest the sky could fall any minute now? Because, according to The New York Times, “sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it was a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship.”
Really? Yes, the paper assures us. Citing an unnamed “official,” it says that Israel “has repeatedly warned American officials that it would cut off access to such sensitive information if it were shared too widely, the former official said. In this case, the fear is that Russia will be able to determine exactly how the information was collected and could disrupt the ally’s espionage efforts.”
Oh come on. The U.S. and Israel have had many close encounters of the awkward kind — some at least as awkward — since President Harry Truman announced the formal U.S. recognition of the just-formed Jewish state in May 1948. Israel depends for its very existence on the beneficence and unmatched military might of the United States, which in turn depends on Israel for intelligence-gathering and other vital needs in the Middle East and in the U.S. itself.
“Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer told The New York Times when informed of the paper’s discovery that Israel was betrayed ally.
Well, you’re thinking, so what? Of course the official comment from the Israeli government would be warm and friendly. Close allies don’t brawl in public.
But supposing The New York Times and The Washington Post were being perfectly straight in their reporting. Suppose there was someone in the Oval Office who actually heard Mr. Trump discuss intelligence matters with his Russian guests and betrayed the president by leaking it to The New York Times (a news leak that is in and of itself a security leak). On top of that, let’s go ahead and suppose that the president’s allegedly loose lips give up Israel as the secret intelligence source on the laptop matter. And the disloyal source in the Oval Office leaked that to the New York “paper of record.”
Do any of these dubious suppositions suggest in any way a U.S.-Israeli intelligence rupture?
Go back to 1967, when Israeli warplanes and boats bombed, strafed and torpedoed the USS Liberty, killing 34 U.S. sailors and wounding another 171. On patrol in international waters off the coast of Egypt, the Liberty was listening in on Israeli plans to grab the Golan Heights from Syria, a move President Lyndon Johnson and his administration opposed.
Fearful of embarrassing our ally Israel, Johnson aborted a rescued mission of U.S. fighters winging their way to the beleaguered Liberty.
Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Joint Chiefs Chairman William Moorer said at the time that the two-hour Israeli attack on the Liberty was intentional, not accidental.
If that “awkwardness” wasn’t enough to damage intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel, how credible is the claim that Mr. Trump’s intelligence breach, if there really was one, now endangers that mutual trust?
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